This Blog

This blog is about ingenious solutions, making do with the available. Levi-Strauss's used the term "Bricoleur." His reference of often confused with "Jack of All Trades," but it meant a more complete kind of what we refer to today, I think, as a "Maker." He wrote that the rules of the game for the Bricoleur are always to make do with tools and materials that are at hand.

Terry Frohm, principle technician at the CRRF Chuuk marine laboratory, used the term "Making Do" to refer to appurtenances and contrivances he innovated for the laboratory, without expensive and specialized equipment or hardware.

I recognized Levi-Strauss's meaning in Micronesian fishermen's use of the available to solve their own problems: Marshallese fishermen used a piece of broken glass or a sharp piece of Aluminum beer can to clean a catch of fish on the beach; their spears were fashioned of discarded water tank bands, and their slings from airplane inner tubes. Goggles were carved from available wood---using possibly a kitchen knife sharpened on a piece of pumice that had drifted onto the beach, their glass from a
relict World War II airplane.

This Blog cannot adequately honor the resourcefulness of those men, but I have borrowed the words of Terry Frohm, to describe the purpose of this proposed collection of solutions and innovations. But I hope it can serve as more than a collection. Rather, by example, a reminder that solutions are often at arm's reach, and not in catalogs.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fishing as Making Do.

In Tokelau, Havini demonstrated to Robert Gillett how to see underwater without goggles.

Pearl-shell was most often encountered inside small caves and underneath rock ledges . The older "tautai" interviewed said that during their youth diving was done without the aid of goggles; divers cupped one hand over the eye ... trapping a small pocket of air in the palm which would enable underwater vision .  As pressure increases with depth , this technique could only be used to a maximum depth of about eight metres, after which the air bubble would be too compressed to be of any use.
          [R. Gillett.   1985.  Traditional Tuna Fishing in Tokelau.  Noumea: South Pacific Commission.]

Gillette also wrote a companion volume about fishing on Satawal Island, in the Caroline Islands West of Chuuk Lagoon.

Subsistence fishing in traditional communities is certainly an impressive example of making do, in all aspects.  In Kiribati, I was priviledged to go fishing with a man whose name I cannot recall, on the island of Aranuka.  A split piece of driftwood lumber, approximately 4x4, by about 4-1/2 or 5' long, was a central piece of equipment.  This log (for want of a better name) had two crosspieces lasted to it, around which was wound a length of monofilament fishing line, perhaps 30 pound test.  Several fish hooks were tucked away in the crack.  The monofilament and the fishhooks were the only gear that was purchased in the store.  From one end of the log to the other was tied a length of some kind of line, which I learned later was a stringer.

In the long crack was kept a spear, and I think even a spare, along with a machete.  When I asked why he carried a machete, he explained, "Te Pakua (sharks)".

We started wading out across the reef flat toward the reef.  Along the way, my companion used the machete to kill a juvenile eel, which he tied onto the log somehow.  When we reached the reef, he tied the log to his waist using  a tether made of hand made sennit, and dived through the wave, towing his toolkit behind him.

Once we cleared the reef crest, he swam along the surface, scanning the bottom in about 12-15 feet of water.  He unwound the monofilament, used the machete to cut the eel up for bait, and started fishing.  I thought it was ingenious, and he certainly was expert: swimming along the surface, presenting the bait to groupers resting on the bottom.  He caught several.  Thinking upon it, they were not of great size, but very good for the "table."

He did, of course, catch other species, and spear a few as well.  But when he had enough to feed a fairly large number of people, it was time to go back.

My companion had taken me out at night as well, to fish for Hemiramphids, halfbeaks.  The diet on this island was varied, as every day, it seemed, a different kind of fish was brought home---through the employment of a different style of fishing.  These are all stories for other times.

The point here is about Making Do, at a high level.

A Portable Pond Dipper

I needed a long handled dipper to get samples from Lake Temescal, in Oakland.  I have found a few Hydra on the duckweed (Lemna minor) I had scooped up with a ziploc bag a few months before.  But it was a clumsy arrangement at best.  I was looking for a dipper like we use for bathing in the tropics (dipping water from the 55 gallon drums we used to collect rain water, or from a well.  Along the way, it became apparent that long poled dippers are sold by Scientific Supply houses; man!  the costs were unbelievable!

Duct Tape.  A broken Tripod.  Some quart size Salsa containers.  That's all I needed.

Photos still to come.

I cut a leg from the tripod.  Now I have an extensible rod.  Taping the salsa container on, I have a portable pond dipper.  Portable, because of the telescoping rod.  Awesome!  Especially considering "respectable" pond dippers are sold in the scientific supply catalogs for upwards of 60.00.   I have often wondered about this.